“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus gives us this encouragement just after He promises that the Holy Spirit will come and remind us of everything that He has told us. How often I need this reminder.
Anyone who has struggled with infertility and the deep unmet desire to have children knows how difficult it can be to remain at peace. We certainly cannot force ourselves to be at peace. Peace is a gift from the Lord that is intimately intertwined with trusting Him. But how can I trust God when I cannot understand why He is not giving me the one thing that I most desire in the world? It is tempting to believe that God has forgotten me and is purposefully withholding something good from me. As soon as I start down the path of not trusting God, it is not long before I settle upon the greatest lie of all: that God does not love me.
It is essential that we eagerly seek to maintain peace during the trials and tribulations of infertility. It is only in the silence and peace of the heart that we can hear the “still small voice” of God (cf. 1 Kings 19:12). With so many voices competing for our attention, more than ever we need to turn to God to not only discern which path He would have us walk, but even more fundamentally to know how much He loves us. Peace comes as we learn to rest in His love.
One resource that has consistently helped me to return to a place of peace is Fr. Jacques Philippe’s beautiful book, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart. The main point of this little book is that God wants us to remain always at peace and it is when we are at peace that we are best able to hear Him, to know His love and to reflect His image to the world. Fr. Philippe compares the state of our soul in its relationship with God to that of the sun reflecting upon a lake. The more tranquil the lake, the more perfectly the sun is reflected upon it. If, however, the lake is churned up and agitated, the sun cannot be reflected.
Similarly, the more peaceful my soul, the more I am able to reflect God and receive His grace. In contrast, when I am distressed and attempting to control things which I cannot control, I have no peace. Only in peace will I be able to know God and His love for me and to reflect that love to the world.
Just knowing this helps me to take a deep breath and relax. God does not want me to be anxious over my inability to conceive or over all of the many options before me (infertility treatments, adoption, fostering, etc.). He wants me to turn to Him in trust that He has a beautiful plan for my life and is guiding me. He wants me to “Be still and know that I am God.” God is the giver of all good gifts: of love, of peace, of joy, of fulfillment. I can rest in God, knowing that He will give me not merely what I want, but ultimately what I most need.
Peace does not come without struggle. Saint Paul reminds us that we have to fight to achieve this peace of heart. He implores Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). We have to fight that primordial temptation first introduced in the Garden with Adam and Eve to question God’s goodness towards us and to distrust Him. We have to continually pray and hold tight to the promises of God and fight the thoughts that tell us that God has abandoned us and that He does not love us. Jesus says that He is the one who gives us peace—that He desires this gift for us. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it is Jesus alone, the Prince of Peace, who can give us what we seek.
At the end of Fr. Philippe’s book, he highlights what the saints tell us about peace. This quote from Saint Francis de Sales has been a constant source of comfort to me: “Remain at peace, my daughter. Remove from your imagination whatever may upset you and say frequently to our Lord, ‘O God, You are my God and I will trust in You; You will help me and You will be my refuge and there is nothing I will fear, because not only are You with me, but, also, You are in me and I in You.’” Let us remember to constantly turn to the Lord and ask Him to increase our trust in Him. Let us pray continually with Saint Faustina Kowalska, “Jesus, I trust in You.”